The Oldest Town in the Flinders Ranges
at the foot of Mount Remarkable.
Melrose, at the foot of Mount Remarkable (955m) and named by Edward John Eyre in 1840, was named after Melrose in Scotland, the birthplace of Catherine Helen Spence. It was the first settlement in the Mount Remarkable district. It started in 1844 when Colin Campbell took out an occupation licence. By the end of 1844 all the land around the mountain had been taken up on leasehold by pastoralists.
Rumours of copper discoveries by W.Finke resulted in F.H.Dutton and A.L.Elder applying for a Special Survey of 20,000 acres around the location. It also led in 1846 to the formation of the Mount Remarkable Mining Company, and an influx of miners. Unfortunately little or no useful deposits were found and the company was dissolved in 1851. To improve the value of its land it was decided to lay out a town on both sides of the property. The town at the northern end was named Melrose, surveyed by T.F. Nott, whereas the southern one became Bangor.
What is known today as Melrose is an aggregation of the Police Paddock, Old Melrose and New Melrose.
The first land sales at Bangor were held in 1853. One of the buyers was Alexander Campbell who had come to South Australia in 1839 with his 69 year old father Colin Campbell, 55 year old mother and three brothers. Having first taken up land in 1844 at Willowie he now bought several sections near Bangor and built 'Glen Orchy' and was for a number of years the local Pound keeper. In December 1866 John M. Campbell was appointed Auctioneer and Poundkeeper at Bangor North.
The pastoral occupation, and the erratic mine workings, had caused some trouble with the local Aborigines resulting in a Police Station being established at the mountain in 1848. It remained the most northerly police post for seven years until another station was opened at Port Augusta. Relations between Aborigines and settlers continued to deteriorate and in 1853 the South Australian government appointed Henry Paul Minchin as Sub-Protector of Aborigines. It was largely through his efforts and influence that the treatment of Aborigines improved. Their numbers though kept declining, as elsewhere, and thirty years later there were fewer than 25 Aborigines left in the area.Map of Melrose
Although several of the land buyers at Melrose, such as John Hector, Thomas Waterhouse and John Howard Angas bought many sections, the majority of land was sold in one or two sections and bought by people who made Melrose their home. One of these was Corporal Thomas William Moran. He and his wife were among the first to live in the new town where their son George was born in 1855. Moran soon left the police force and became a pastoralist, buying additional land and building and running the Mount Remarkable Hotel. One of his land speculations, the town of Harrow, became a failure due to the severe drought of the early 1860s.
His obituary in the Advertiser stated that T. W. Moran, born at Dorrington, Westmeath, Ireland had joined the 11th Devonshire Regiment in Athlone Barracks and was afterwards stationed in Kent and London, where he acquired a knowledge of shorthand, being one of Pitman's first pupils.
He came out to Tasmania with his detachment on transport duty, whence it was sent to Adelaide for garrison service on detachment. When it was sent to Sydney he left the regiment and returned to Adelaide. He joined the Police Force as shorthand reporter at the instance of the late Captain Bagot, who afterwards procured him an appointment in the Mounted Police.
He accompanied Tolmer in his historical trip in pursuit of the Port Lincoln blacks accused of numerous murders. He remained in Port Lincoln, where he was promoted to the rank of corporal, and when the district was fairly cleared of the outlaws he came overland with two troopers to pick out the first track for stock and general purposes. On arriving in Adelaide he gave notice of his intention to proceed to the Victoria diggings, but while in attendance on Governor Young he received severe sunstroke.
Being unable to carry out his intentions, he remained in barracks as orderly corporal; thence he was sent to Yorke Peninsula, where blacks were troublesome, and afterwards to Mount Remarkable. He left the force in 1856, and went into business as a cattle and sheep raiser. He also built the hotel known as Moran's at Melrose. He was one of the founders of the New Melrose Lodge, M.U. and was president of the Agricultural Society and racing club. Moran remained in the district until his death in August 1904 aged 88 years.
John Howard Angas, the son of George Fife Angas who had been instrumental in bringing out the first German Lutherans, became the largest landowner in the town and district. Although resented at times because of his wealth and large estate, Angas was a benefactor to the young town. He served as a Justice of the Peace in the local court whenever he was in town visiting his lands. He also donated large sums of money towards the building of a hospital and institute
For several years Melrose remained the only established town in the northern Flinders Ranges, supplying remote pastoral stations, mining camps, surveyors, travellers and settlers with police protection, goods and services and a means of communication.
By the end of the 1850s a nucleus of business houses had been established. Several stores were open as well as a school where Mrs Margaret Enoch was in charge in 1857. Three years later the school closed as Mrs Enoch was having a baby. In 1861 the school was open again and 32 students received instruction from Enoch. Later that year the school was visited by GB Smith, the local Magistrate, who said, 'I have much pleasure in reporting the care and energy displayed by the instructress. I find the pupils improving very fast, considering the irregularity of the attendance of some. In 1868 Mr and Mrs Enoch left the town and opened a school in the mining town of Blinman.
One enterprising resident was storekeeper William Jones. Unfortunately he met with an appalling and fatal accident in December 1867. While travelling with his hawking cart full of merchandise it capsized and fell on top of him. A quantity of lucifers, which were in his cart ignited and Jones with his horses were burnt to death.
Other enterprising residents were Charles Yates and Charles Henry Gray. Yates was appointed poundkeeper on lot 33 at New Melrose in July 1867.
Gray established a much needed brewery. From the very start Melrose had wanted a brewery and although most hotelkeepers brewed their own, it was Gray who started a separate brewery. He did well out of this venture, followed the Enochs to Blinman and opened another brewery there in 1869. He made enough money at Blinman to become one of the five promoters, and later secretary of the Sliding Rock mine in 1870. However it was the Jacka Brothers brewery which made Melrose famous. Its beer was drunk from Lyndhurst to Broken Hill.
Not everyone was as successful as the Jacka brothers. John Trafford, labourer of Melrose found himself in prison at Redruth in February 1875 for being unable to pay his creditors.
Many of the early Melrose Pioneers are buried at the local
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